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Warren Pledges to Unilaterally Eliminate Federal Student Loan Debt

Elizabeth Warren says that American’s student debt load is a crisis, and she wants to get rid of it. She has recently said that, if elected, she plans on using her authority to start canceling student debt on her first day in office. She said that there is no need for Congress to approve such a move.

 

Under her plan, upon taking office she would immediately begin canceling up to $50,000 in debt for 42 million Americans. This would cover about 95% of those who have borrowed money from the federal government.

 

This is not new territory for Warren. She has previously announced a higher education plan that has as its centerpiece the forgiveness of student loan debt. Much of the forgiveness focuses on borrowers who have incomes under $100,000 a year. Under that proposal, however, Warren would seek legislation from Congress to eliminate debt. Her recent announcement relies upon a legal theory that the Secretary of Education already has the authority to begin such debt forgiveness.

 

According to Warren, this student loan debt is crushing middle class families and holding them back from achieving the American Dream. Her plan is costly, but she says she will finance it by imposing a tax on the highest income earners. Critics argue that her proposal is an expensive taxpayer giveaway to people who can afford to pay the money they borrowed, since they have an education that should lead to higher-paid work.

 

If Warren is elected president and attempted to eliminate these loans without congressional authorization, it is likely she would face a legal challenge.


Do you support Elizabeth Warren’s plan to end federal student debt without congressional approval?

Judge Halts North Carolina Voter ID Law

North Carolina voters will not be required to show identification before voting in that state’s 2020 primary.

 

In 2018, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that allowed the legislature to enact a voter ID law. In December of that year, the Republican-controlled legislature approved a law enacting a voter ID mandate. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it, but legislators overrode his veto. There have been ongoing legal battles over the law since then.

 

Supporters of a voter ID law say that it is necessary to ensure that only legal voters take part in elections. They contend that making voters show ID is a good way to combat voter fraud. Opponents counter that this is a law designed to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to vote. They say that the real intention is to disenfranchise Democratic voters, not combat voter fraud.

 

This week, a federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of the law. He has said that it should not go into effect until courts settle whether or not this law is constitutional. His ruling does not invalidate the voter ID requirement, but does suspend it for the 2020 primary election.

 

A federal case over a previous North Carolina voter ID law resulted in that law being declared unconstitutional because of its effect on minority voters.

 

Do you support voter ID laws?

Bloomberg Backs Federal Permits for Gun Owners

Michael Bloomberg has long championed gun control policies, both as a private citizen and as mayor of New York. Now that he’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has unveiled a sweeping package of proposals that would enact a variety of new restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.

 

These are a few of the initiatives being proposed by Bloomberg:

  • Mandate a federal license prior to any individual purchasing a gun
  • Require every gun purchase complete a background check
  • Enact a federal “red flag” law that allows police to seize guns from individuals who are suspected of being a threat
  • Prohibit individuals from publishing plans for 3-D guns online
  • Raise the federal age to purchase guns to 21
  • Ban “assault weapons”
  • Enact a law that sets federal rules on how individuals store their guns
  • Increase funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as well as funding for gun violence research
  • Mandate a 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases
  • Require gun owners to report if their guns are lost or stolen within 3 days
  • Repeal the federal law that restricts lawsuits against gun manufacturers

 

Many of these proposals are also backed by other candidates running for the Democratic nomination. However, Bloomberg has a long history of gun control advocacy. He has donated significant sums of money to organizations and candidates who has pushed this issue, and he’s making it a centerpiece of his campaign.

 

According to Bloomberg, these new federal restrictions are necessary to stem the tide of gun violence. He sees them as a way to reduce gun deaths and make our communities safer. Opponents, however, say that they will only infringe upon the rights of lawful gun owners. They also argue that many of these ideas infringe upon the Second Amendment.

 

Do you support requiring a federal license for someone who wants to purchase a gun? Should there be a 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases?

Bloomberg Repudiates “Stop and Frisk”

Throughout his tenure as New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg was a vigorous defender of the controversial police practice known as “stop and frisk.” On Sunday, however, he apologized for his past actions. Some see this as a belated acknowledgement of the harms caused by this practice, while others view his apology as a purely political move.

 

Bloomberg recently announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Many observers said that he would have trouble appealing to the liberal base of the party due to his staunch defense of “stop and frisk.” This policy was one used extensively by the New York City Police Department to stop individuals and frisk them for weapons. Critics said it was an unconstitutional search of people who had done nothing wrong. They also said that the city was targeting minorities in its use. Then-Mayor Bloomberg defended the policy, saying it was vital to keeping illegal weapons off city streets, but courts severely curtailed its use.

 

While speaking at an African-American church this week, Bloomberg said, “I can’t change history. However today, I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong.” He specifically noted that this policy was applied largely to black and Latino men.

 

The Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure. Federal courts held that “stop and frisk” could be constitutional if narrowly applied, but that New York’s use was problematic. At the time of the legal challenge over this practice, Mayor Bloomberg vigorously defended it, dismissing the idea that New York police were violating the Constitution.

 

Do you think that Michael Bloomberg should have apologized for New York City’s use of “stop and frisk” to detain people and search for weapons?

Biden Unveils $1.3 Trillion Infrastructure Plan

Today former Vice President Joe Biden announced an infrastructure plan that he says will “rebuild the middle class.” Critics say that it will impose a huge tax burden on Americans.

 

These are some of the key aspects of Biden’s proposal:

  • A $50 billion federal initiative to repair roads and bridges
  • Secure “new revenues” for the Highway Trust Fund, a federal fund collecting revenue from fuel taxes
  • Spend $5 billion to research new battery technology
  • Use federal resources to expand the electric car charging system
  • Spend $500 billion in clean energy research
  • Expand rail service
  • Provide public transportation to cities with 100,000 residents or more
  • Target $10 billion to high-poverty areas to improve public transit
  • Promote infrastructure that leads to a 100% clean energy economy
  • Create a federal program to promote building energy efficiency
  • Provide broadband service to every American household
  • Create a new federal program to spend $100 billion in school buildings

 

This plan gathers together many proposals put forward by liberal and progressive groups and elected officials. Biden argues that they will transform the economy for the future, providing good jobs for the middle class and helping clean the environment. Those who support these programs argue that it is vital that the federal government invest in this vision to ensure the U.S. has a sustainable future.


Critics, however, see these ideas as both unrealistic and expensive. They note that it’s easy to say that these programs will achieve their goals, but similar government initiatives in the past have failed. They also note the high price tag for such a program, saying that taxes will have to go up to pay for it or the government will have to go deeper in debt.

 

Biden faces a crowded field of rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. It remains to be seen if ideas like these will help him win votes from the left wing of the party being courted by other candidates such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

 

Do you support the federal government paying for more high-speed rail service? Should there be a federal push for a 100% clean-energy economy?

 

Sanders Proposes to Liberalize Immigration Laws

Calling President Trump “a racist, a xenophobe, and a demagogue,” Senator Bernie Sanders today unveiled his proposal to reverse the Trump Administration immigration actions and make major changes to U.S. immigration law.

 

Among other things, the Sanders plan would:

  • Reverse President Trump’s executive actions that affect immigrants, including the travel ban and restrictions on asylum
  • Put a moratorium on deportations
  • Provide legal status to individuals in the DACA program (immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children)
  • Stop deportations of undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for longer than 5 years
  • Ask Congress to pass legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
  • Decriminalize illegal border crossing
  • Provide illegal immigrants with the right to legal counsel in deportation hearings
  • Restructure ICE and the Border Patrol
  • Reform worker visas to allow immigrants to work in more places
  • Focus immigration law enforcement on employers, not workers
  • Mandate a $15 minimum wage for farm workers
  • Lift the cap on refugee admissions

 

Many of these proposals are direct repudiations of Trump Administration immigration policies. In line with his position on the left wing of the Democratic Party, Sen. Sanders is focusing on penalizing employers over immigrants when it comes to enforcing current immigration laws. He is also supporting programs that would allow more immigrants into the U.S. and make it easier for those who are in the U.S. to remain here.

 

In the past, Sen. Sanders has criticized what he characterizes as “open border” policies as being a way for business owners to undermine U.S. workers’ rights. This plan is his attempt to spell out exactly what he would do as president when it comes to immigration reform. Many of these proposals would require action by Congress.

 

Do you support putting a moratorium on deportations? Should immigration enforcement focus on business owners who are using illegal immigrant labor?

 

Washington Voters Reject Affirmative Action

In Washington State, voters appear to narrowly reject a legislative initiative that would reinstate affirmative action for state government policies.

 

 Referendum 88 would have permitted the state government and state higher education institutions to use affirmative action in state employment, contracting, and education. The referendum was asking voters to approve or reject an initiative passed by the legislature that allows the state to use race, gender, ethnicity, or national origin as a factor when it comes to making decisions.

 

Early returns indicate that a slim majority of voters are rejecting the referendum.

 

In 1998, state voters passed an initiative that bans preferential treatment based on things like race, sex, or national origin. The new legislative initiative sought to continue banning strict quotas but to allow the use of softer forms of affirmative action.

 

Supporters say that the state should be able to take past discrimination into account when shaping state policies. They say that the 1998 initiative ties the hands of state government efforts to ensure that all people in Washington are treated fairly. Opponents counter that affirmative action policies are themselves discriminatory. They say that state government should treat everyone equally, regardless of race, sex, or national origin.

 

Washington conducts its elections exclusively by mail. Ballots must be marked by 8 p.m. on Election Day, so it can take days to tabulate final calculations.

 

Do you support state affirmative action policies that allow government to take factors such as race or sex into account when it comes to hiring, education, or contracting?

Warren Unveils Tax Plan to Pay for Medicare-for-All

Both Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders have embraced Medicare-for-All during their campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But while Sen. Sanders has been blunt that his plan would require new taxes, Sen. Warren has been less clear about how she would pay for this new federal plan. Today she added clarity to her proposal by outlining a plan to fund her expansion of government health care.

 

Under Sen. Warren’s proposal, here is how she would cover the costs of Medicare-for-all:

  • Tax businesses the amount they are currently paying for their part of employer-sponsored health insurance.
  • Increase efforts to stop tax evasion and avoidance.
  • Impose a new tax on financial transactions.
  • Impose a new tax on larger banks.
  • Modify the tax deduction for corporate depreciation.
  • Impose a new tax on companies that have presences in other countries.
  • Impose a new tax on taxpayers with assets over $50 million.
  • Impose capital gains on a yearly basis instead of when the gains are realized through sales.
  • Reform immigration laws to allow more immigrants to come to the U.S., which Warren says will result in more tax revenue.
  • Cut defense spending.
  •  

There is some dispute over how much federal spending would have to rise with Medicare-for-All. Some estimates put it at $34 trillion over 10 years. That is roughly the amount of all the current federal entitlement programs combined.

 

Senators Sanders and Warren say that Medicare-for-All will not be new spending, but will be a shift in spending. They say that the money currently being spent in the private and government health care sectors, on things such as private insurance or Medicaid, would be replaced by Medicare-for-All spending. In fact, in her plan, Sen. Warren says that companies would ultimately spend less via her new health care tax than they spend paying private insurance premiums.

 

Critics counter that this would be a huge expansion of federal spending that will likely be much more expensive than projected. They also note that this would be a massive re-alignment of how Americans receive their health care, with private insurance being outlawed in most instances.

 

Do you support new taxes on businesses and high-income taxpayers to pay for Medicare-for-All?

 

 

 

Gerrymandering Reform Gets a Hearing in North Carolina

Recent years have seen bitter legislative and court battles over North Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts. With another legal case looming, a legislative committee is considering three bills that would overhaul the way the state draws election districts.

 

Under two of the bills being heard this week, the state would establish independent commissions that would draw the lines of legislative and congressional districts. Another bill would empower legislative staff to draw these districts. Under each bill being considered, however, the criteria being used is aimed at making it more difficult to shape districts so they favor one party over another.

 

The bills accomplish this goal in a few ways. They require that there not be any large discrepancies in the population of districts, that the land areas of the districts be contiguous, and that political affiliation of voters in the districts not be considered. These would prevent oddly-shaped districts that link together voters of a certain political party from being designed.

 

Currently, legislators approve congressional and legislative districts. This had led to the charge that Republicans have gerrymandered the districts to cement their hold on political power. Democrats and minority voters complain that these districts disenfranchise them by diluting their voting power. These arguments have won over some judges, who have invalidated the legislatively-drawn districts as being unconstitutional.

 

The legislation under consideration in the legislature this week is bipartisan. It copies procedures used in other states that are aimed at minimizing gerrymandering attempts.

 

Do you support independent commissions designing congressional and legislative districts in order to cut down on gerrymandering?

Warren Lays Out Gay & Transgender Rights Plan

This week the Supreme Court heard arguments over whether federal law bars discrimination against homosexual and transgender Americans. Today, Sen. Elizabeth Warren outlined a plan focusing on gay, lesbian, and transgender rights.

 

Under Sen. Warren's plan, the federal government would expand its efforts on behalf of gay and transgender individuals in these ways:

  • Pass a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Bar religious freedom laws from being used as a legal defense for individuals or businesses to refuse services to those who are gay or transgender
  • Prohibit the Transportation Security Administration from singling out transgender individuals
  • Require that federal contractors do not discriminate against gay or transgender workers
  • Direct the federal government to seek out anti-gay and transgender discrimination by business owners and employers
  • Enact a federal law that prohibits conversion therapy
  • Mandate that school districts adopt anti-bulling policies that include a focus on gay and transgender bullying
  • Provide federal funding for police departments to identify implicit anti-gay bias
  • End the requirement that federal prisons assign prisoners based on their birth sex

 

In her statement outlining the plan, Sen. Warren takes direct aim at President Trump. Many of the items in her proposal are direct responses to what she says are Trump Administration rollbacks of protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans.

 

Do you support a federal law banning gay conversion therapy? Should the federal government seek out anti-gay and anti-transgender discrimination by business owners and employers instead of relying on reports of such discrimination?

Sanders Wants Strict Limit on Political Donations

It’s no secret that Sen. Bernie Sanders is not a fan of corporations. Now he’s targeting what he calls “corporate money” in politics in his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Today Sen. Sanders announced a plan to, in his words, “get corporate money out of politics.” Among other things, his proposal would:

  • Ban corporations from donating to presidential inauguration events and cap individual donations to these events at $500.
  • Push for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and enable Congress to pass legislation mandating that advocacy organizations report their donors to the government.
  • Create the Federal Elections Agency, which would be empowered to levy criminal fines for campaign finance violations and be staffed by members that serve 6-year terms.
  • Mandate government financing for federal elections.
  • Create government-funded vouchers that would be provided to individuals in order to make campaign donations.
  • Prohibit ads during presidential primary debates.
  • Ban former members of Congress and administration officials from ever lobbying.

 

Sen. Sanders would also prohibit the Democratic National Convention from receiving corporate donations.

 

According to Sen. Sanders, corporations have too much influence over politicians, so his plan would curtail that influence. He says it is necessary to reduce the power of corporations to write laws that benefit themselves and not the people. Opponents counter that his plan would be a massive government expansion over individuals who want to have their voices heard in the political process. They argue that his plan would put more government control over politics, something that will only help incumbents.

 

Other candidates for the Democratic nomination have suggested similar ideas for campaign finance reform, but none have been as comprehensive or as restrictive as the plan outlined by Sen. Sanders.

 

Do you think that the Constitution should be amended to overturn Citizens United? Should there be government-funded vouchers given to individuals so they can make campaign donations?

 

Judge Blocks Law Mandating Release of Candidates’ Tax Returns

A federal judge has put a stop, at least for now, to California’s attempt to force President Trump and other candidates for office in that state to release their tax returns.

 

A district judge in the state has issued an injunction to stop the law from taking effect until its legal merits can be decided. He said that the law is likely unconstitutional and that allowing it to proceed would harm candidates in the 2020 election.

 

Earlier this year California passed a law mandating that candidates seeking a spot on the state’s ballot must disclose their tax returns for the past 5 years. This came in response to the refusal of then-candidate Donald Trump to release his tax returns. Such a disclosure is not mandated by law, but has been customary for decades.

 

California officials argue that the law is necessary so voters can see if candidates have conflicts of interest that may impair their judgment in office. They say that candidates should be willing to subject their financial details to public scrutiny. Lawyers challenging the law contend that it is unconstitutional. They note that the Constitution sets a few requirements for president and that states cannot add to them.

 

The federal judge seems to agree with the latter argument. However, his action was not a final determination of the law’s constitutionality; instead, the court case against the law will continue but the law can only go into effect if it is ultimately found to be constitutional.

 

Do you think that states should be able to force candidates to release their tax returns?

Sanders Unveils His “Wealth Tax”

Senator Bernie Sanders has few good things to say about Americans who earn high incomes. In his run for the Democratic nomination, he has made targeting the wealthy a centerpiece of his campaign. Now he has a tax plan that takes aggressive aim at this group.

 

Today Sen. Sanders released a plan that would impose a wealth tax on higher-income households. This is how the new tax surcharge would escalate:

  • 1% tax on married couple wealth above $32 million and single individual wealth above $16 million
  • 2% tax on married couple wealth above $50 million and single individual wealth above $25 million
  • 3% tax on married couple wealth above $250 million and single individual wealth above $125 million
  • 4% tax on married couple wealth above $500 million and single individual wealth above $250 million
  • 5% tax on married couple wealth above $1 billion and single individual wealth above $500 million
  • 6% tax on married couple wealth above $2.5 billion and single individual wealth above $1.25 billion
  • 7% tax on married couple wealth above $5 billion and single individual wealth above $2.5 billion
  • 8% tax on married couple wealth above $10 billion and single individual wealth above $5 billion

 

According to the Sanders campaign, this tax plan would cut the wealth of American billionaires in half. The campaign also says it would produce $4.35 trillion over 10 years. That new revenue would help pay for a variety of costly plans that Sanders has outlined on the campaign trail, such as student loan forgiveness, Medicare-for-all, and universal child care.

 

Proponents of the Sanders plan justify it as a way to equalize what they say is an extreme gap between wealthy Americans and everyone else. They argue that the government has a role to take some of this wealth and use it for social programs that benefit the public. Opponents counter that this plan would discourage individuals from investing and working, leading to fewer jobs created and lower economic growth. They also note that wealthy Americans can take steps to avoid the tax, so it will likely produce far less income than the Sanders campaign predicts.

 

Among the individuals running for the Democratic nomination, Elizabeth Warren has also proposed a wealth tax. The Sanders plan is more aggressive than the tax program outlined by Warren.

 

Do you support a special tax on individuals who earn more than $16 million?

Warren Unveils “Anti-Corruption” Plan

Today Sen. Elizabeth Warren outlined a proposal that she says is necessary to fight corruption in the federal government.

 

Her plan calls for a variety of reforms to federal laws, including:

  • Mandating that the president and vice president place their assets in a blind trust to be sold.
  • Disclosing automatically the tax returns of candidates for federal office, including the president and vice president.
  • Requiring senior government officials to divest from assets that could pose a conflict-of-interest.
  • Banning members of Congress from trading in individual stocks while in office.
  • Prohibiting members of congress and senior congressional staff from serving on corporate boards.
  • Banning lobbyists from serving in government within two years of ending their lobbying career.
  • Prohibiting members of Congress and some federal officials from ever taking a job as a lobbyist after their time in the government is over.
  • Mandating the disclosure of financial information for federal judges and imposing a code of conduct on these judges.
  • Extending lobbying restrictions to anyone who is “paid to influence lawmakers.”
  • Banning lobbyists from representing foreign entities.
  • Prohibiting lobbyists from donating to political candidates or fundraise for them.
  • Banning forced arbitration clauses and mandatory class action waivers.

 

According to Sen. Warren, President Trump’s Administration has shown the weakness of federal anti-corruption laws. Many of her proposals are aimed explicitly at practices that she says are weakening our government under President Trump. Other proposals are older ideas that liberals have long pushed for, such as the ending of forced arbitration clauses.

 

Critics of her plan note that many of her ideas, such as prohibiting lobbyists from contributing to candidates, would likely run afoul of the Constitution. They also point to these plans as being a vast expansion of federal power over political speech and activity.


Sen. Warren has sponsored similar legislation during her time in the Senate. This plan is an updated version that is part of her platform as she runs for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

Do you think that the federal government should prohibit lobbyist from contributing to candidates? Should the IRS automatically release the tax returns of anyone running for federal office, from presidential candidates to members of Congress?

 

 

Sanford Targets Federal Debt in Run against Trump

Mark Sanford wants to wrest the Republican presidential nomination from Donald Trump. He thinks that focusing on rising federal spending and debt is the way to do this.

 

Sanford announced his candidacy on Fox News Sunday over the weekend. On Twitter, he wrote that he was running for president because of his concern over rising national spending and debt accumulation:

 

We have a storm coming that we are neither talking about nor preparing for given that we, as a country, are more financially vulnerable than we have ever been since our Nation’s start and the Civil War. We are on a collision course with financial reality. We need to act now.

 

As discussed in a VoteSpotter Deep Dive, federal spending, the deficit, and debt are all rising. Yearly deficits are likely to reach over $1 trillion per year for the next decade. Phil Swagel, head of the Congressional Budget Office, recently wrote:

 

The nation’s fiscal outlook is challenging. Federal debt, which is already high by historical standards, is on an unsustainable course, projected to rise even higher after 2029 because of the aging of the population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and rising interest costs.

 

According to Sanford, President Trump bears a large responsibility for what he sees as a looming fiscal crisis. He noted that the president embraces debt and has presided over a large expansion of federal spending.

 

A former South Carolina governor and member of Congress, Sanford lost his seat to a Trump-backed primary challenger last year. He had been a critic of the president during his time in Congress, focusing mainly on what he saw as unsustainable federal spending.

 

Do you think that rising federal spending and debt are problems?

Kamala Harris Backs Nationwide Plastic Straw Ban

Want a plastic straw with your drink in a restaurant? Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think that is a good idea.

 

During a CNN debate on climate change, Sen. Harris said that she supports a national ban on plastic straws. She did, however, acknowledge that paper straws do not work very well. Her campaign has said that she wants to see more innovation in straw production to make the elimination of plastic straws feasible. The debate was being held for the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

California has a statewide ban on restaurants offering a plastic straw to a customer unless the customer requests one. A variety of cities have also enacted similar straw bans. Florida legislators passed a law that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it.

 

Plastic straws have come under attack from critics who allege they contribute to pollution, especially in the ocean. These backers of straw bans contend that ocean wildlife are harmed by these straws. Opponents of a straw ban counter that plastic pollution in the ocean overwhelmingly comes from places other than the U.S. They say that banning plastic straws will do very little, if anything, to address pollution concerns and will only inconvenience American consumers.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws?

Kamala Harris Backs Nationwide Plastic Straw Ban

Want a plastic straw with your drink in a restaurant? Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think that is a good idea.

 

During a CNN debate on climate change, Sen. Harris said that she supports a national ban on plastic straws. She did, however, acknowledge that paper straws do not work very well. Her campaign has said that she wants to see more innovation in straw production to make the elimination of plastic straws feasible. The debate was being held for the candidates vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

 

California has a statewide ban on restaurants offering a plastic straw to a customer unless the customer requests one. A variety of cities have also enacted similar straw bans. Florida legislators passed a law that would prevent local governments from banning plastic straws, but Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed it.

 

Plastic straws have come under attack from critics who allege they contribute to pollution, especially in the ocean. These backers of straw bans contend that ocean wildlife are harmed by these straws. Opponents of a straw ban counter that plastic pollution in the ocean overwhelmingly comes from places other than the U.S. They say that banning plastic straws will do very little, if anything, to address pollution concerns and will only inconvenience American consumers.

 

Do you support banning plastic straws?

O’Rourke Proposes Mandatory Gun Buyback

 

In the wake of recent mass shootings, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke thinks he has the answer – the government mandating that gun owners relinquish certain guns in return for a payment.

 

O’Rourke, a former member of Congress from Texas, proposed this buyback plan after two mass shootings in that state. He said that “weapons of war” should not be on the street, and that the owners of what he calls “assault weapons” should have to turn them over to the government. In return, the government will compensate gun owners.

 

Various cities have operated gun buyback programs for decades. However, these are voluntary operations, with individuals bringing in guns to receive cash or gift cards. There has never been a mandatory gun buyback program in the United States.

 

O’Rourke says that this is the only way to remove these guns from public use. He argues that this will reduce mass shootings. Critics counter that only law-abiding gun owners will comply, which would not affect crime. They also note that this plan would face legal challenges for violating the Second Amendment.

 

Various Democratic candidates have proposed stricter gun control laws as they jockey for the 2020 presidential nomination. High-profile events where a gunman has killed numerous people with a semi-automatic firearm has galvanized activists who are pushing for stricter limits on gun ownership. The House of Representatives has passed bills that would impose background checks on private gun sales, but the Senate has yet to act on this legislation.

 

Do you think that the government should force gun owners to give up “assault weapons” in return for compensation?

Court Rules Electoral College Members aren’t Bound by Popular Vote

States that mandate their Electoral College members vote in line with the popular vote may find that these laws are void. A recent federal court ruling said that electors are free to vote their conscience, regardless of state law.

 

Most states bind electors to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in that state. During the 2016 election, the Colorado Secretary of State removed an elector who refused to cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, the winner of that state's popular vote. That elector sued, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of the elector.

 

Within the past two decades, two presidential elections have gone to the candidate who won the electoral vote and not the popular vote – George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. During the presidential election, voters are not directly voting for candidates, but are instead voting for slates of electors who will then meet and select the president. Most of the time these electors are party regulars who can be counted to vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged. But in 2016, there were multiple electors who voted for candidates other than Clinton or Trump.

 

With these developments, the Electoral College has come under increasing criticism. Some states have passed bills that would create a compact wherein they would award their electoral votes to whomever won the national popular vote, regardless of who won their individual state’s popular vote. Some politicians are also advocating banning the Electoral College and relying exclusively on the popular vote.

 

The question of what power states possess to bind electors will likely be decided by the Supreme Court.

 

Do you think that states should be able to require that electors vote in line with that state’s popular vote? Do you think the Electoral College should be abolished?

Sanders Focusing on Criminal Justice Reform

Ideas to reform the criminal justice system have been embraced by both Democratic and Republican politicians. Now Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described socialist running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is announcing a crime plan that pushes the limits of the bipartisan consensus for reform.

 

Here are some of the proposals that Sen. Sanders is championing:

  • Legalizing marijuana
  • Expunging records for those convicted of marijuana-related offenses
  • Prohibiting private prisons
  • Ending cash bail
  • Re-instating parole
  • Expanding youth diversion programs and alternatives to incarceration
  • Ending civil asset forfeiture
  • Legalizing safe injection sites for drug users

 

In addition, Sanders wants to create a “prisoner’s bill of rights” and require a federal investigation every time a prisoner dies in police custody.

 

These ideas would re-shape the federal prison system in ways that Sen. Sanders hopes would cut the prison population in half and address what he sees as institutional racism in the system. The proposal would only affect the federal prison system, however. States would still operate their own systems for non-federal crimes.

 

Sen. Sanders’s criminal justice proposal differentiates him from some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor and California Attorney General, has come under attack for her tactics in those offices. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also faced criticism for his votes on criminal justice issues during his time as senator.

 

Do you think that marijuana should be legalized? Should cash bail be banned? Is it a good idea for the federal government to re-instate parole?

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